• Brian McFarlane

Funny Memories with King Clancy

By Brian McFarlane

Over the years, I've been asked to act as master of ceremonies or guest speaker at numerous sports banquets. It was always a bonus whenever King Clancy was at the head table. Several times he showed up at the annual Heritage Dinner in Georgetown, Ontario.

One night the honoured guest was my friend and Hockey Night in Canada colleague Bob Goldham. He was joined at the head table by hockey luminaries like Ted Lindsay, Bill Gadsby, Leo Reise, and Marcel Pronovost, all former Red Wing stars, and several other former NHLers.

In my opening remarks, I poked a little fun at Bob Goldham (a few months later I would be asked to deliver the eulogy at his funeral) and had the audience laughing. Then I got around to Clancy.

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to bring Hall of Famer King Clancy up to the microphone in a moment. But first I want you to know that I’ve discovered some interesting facts about the man, facts you might not have heard before.

For example, King is not the only famous Clancy in the clan. One of King's ancestors, I believe it was his great great great grandfather, was renowned throughout Ireland as the inventor of the toilet seat. (pause for ripple of laughter from audience.) Then about a hundred years later, another Clancy ancestor improved on the idea‑‑by cutting a hole in it." (good laugh from audience. I glance at Clancy and he's chuckling so I continue)

King has always credited his father for getting him interested in sports at an early age. He says his dad taught him how to swim by taking him down to the Ottawa River and throwing him into 40 feet of water. King says getting back to the shore was the easy part. Getting out of that damn bag‑‑that was the tough part.

Later on his father taught him how to hunt. He'd take him out in the woods‑‑dress him in a bunny outfit. (Pause) Give him a three minute head start.

His father was a generous man. King remembers the time he bought him some toys to play with in the bathtub‑‑a toaster and a radio.

His father never taught King the facts of life so King didn't know anything about sex growing up. Well, he did know one thing. He knew he was going to go blind at any minute. (big laugh)

When he was a teenager, King saw two dogs locked together one day and he asked his father about it. His father said the dogs were merely dancing. No wonder King got thrown out of the junior prom that year.

King won a million dollars in the lottery the other day and vowed he'd never work another day in his life. So he's staying on with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (big laugh)

My wife Joan is a big Clancy fan. The other day at breakfast she must have rubbed our old teapot in a peculiar way because suddenly a genie appeared over the table and said, "Missy, thank you for releasing me from that old teapot. Now I'll grant you any wish you desire. My wife looked down at herself and said, "I think I'd like the two biggest boobs in the world." So we had breakfast with Ballard and Clancy this morning. (big laugh)

I suppose you've heard that Clancy's best pal, Mr. Ballard, has had a new woman in his life for the past few months--Yolanda. King tells me Yolanda is writing a new book. It's called, "I wish he'd done to me what he did to the Leafs."

There were a few more cornball barbs directed at King. Then I said, "Mr. Clancy, will you come to the microphone, please."

Clancy shuffled over to join me and the first words out of his mouth were, "McFarlane, where'd you come up with all this bullshit?" (big laugh)

King grabbed the microphone. "Let me tell you about Bob Goldham," he says to the audience. "He was a great, great player and he was the only player on the Detroit club that never gave me any trouble. When I was a referee, that is. He was a class guy. And as far as I'm concerned, Brian, you shouldn't have made any jokes about him. They might have fit Ted Lindsay over there (laughter) or Bill Gadsby (more laughter). But not Goldham."

How about Alex Delvecchio?" I ask.

"What?" he cried, glaring at me in mock outrage. "Never Alex. Now there's another class guy. Never swore at me in his life." He pauses to turn and glance at a grinning Delvecchio. "Geez, Alex, you had words I never heard of before...some real pips.

"And Brian, somebody here tonight gave me a knock--..it might have been you---because I'm wearing a bandage over my eye. I've had an operation but I'll soon be 100 per cent. And I'll tell you somethin'. When I was a referee I had a good eye..."

"Just one?" I ask innocently.

"No, no, two good eyes. Listen, how would you like to have the aggregation you've got up here tonight in your hockey line-up? Geez, there's a priest over there. I don't know whether the reverend father ever played hockey or not so we'll forget all about him. Anyway, there's Bob Goldham, Leo Reise, Marcel Pronovost, Alex Delvecchio, Bill Gadsby, Johnny Wilson, Harry Watson, Gaye Stewart, Ivan Irwin. What a team you'd have! And Jim Gregory, who's sitting over there, would be the manager."

"You'd beat a lot of teams with that lineup," I suggested.

"You'd beat everybody," King said. "Now there's a young man playing in the NHL today (Gretzky) and I think he's the greatest player in the game. Too bad Gordie Howe isn't here 'cause I got a few words for him too (laughter) but really, these fellows could take care of that young guy. You know, Ted Lindsay, for example, was one of the greatest players who ever laced on a skate. I mean that, Ted, because you gave me lots of trouble when I refereed and I gave you lots. When I refereed, all these fellows played--and they were real gentlemen. (Someone snorts and Clancy winks at the crowd. Everyone laughs.)

"I remember Ted Lindsay saying to me one night, ‘Clancy, you're the blindest son of a bitch I ever saw.’

“And I said, ‘Ted, you're not seein' the net too well yourself tonight. (everyone laughs)

"Lemme tell you somethin'. I'll tell you about Lindsay, Abel and Howe. They were playin' against Chicago one night and I was in the middle. I don't know why I was there because Jack Adams, the Detroit manager, had told me once, ‘Clancy, you'll never referee in the Olympia again.’

“And I said to him, ‘Thanks very much, Jack, because I hate this goddamn place.’ (laughter)

"On this night Detroit are leading 1‑0. I let everything go until I caught Lindsay giving somebody an elbow in the kisser. I said, ‘Goodnight, Ted’ and I waved him to the penalty box. Then Howe gave somebody a big wipe, not ten seconds later, almost knocking this poor fellow's ear off. I said, ‘Gordie, you're gone, too.’

"Now I went to face the puck off and Abel is there. He growls at me, `Clancy, you don't have the guts to throw three guys off from the same line at the same time.' And I said, `Just give me a reason to, Sid. 'Well, he put his stick down but he moved it around and he wouldn't square away for the faceoff, so I yelled, `Abel, you're gone, too.' You should have heard what he said to me as he went to the box. And all the time I'm sayin' to myself, I hope Chicago scores. And they did. (laughter)

"Then the manager, Jack Adams...such a nice man...a quiet person, said to me, ‘You know, Clancy, you just gave Chicago one friggin' point.’

“And I said, ‘That's too damn bad, Jack. Here you are leadin' the league by eight points and you're afraid to give somebody one little point. You'll never miss it.’"

“He said, ‘We will too.’ Then he told me, ‘Listen, Clancy, the next time Toronto comes in here for chissake I hope you're not with them.’

"But I wanna say somethin' about the fellows we have here tonight, especially the defenseman. Bob Goldham, Marcel Pronovost, Leo Reise, Bill Gadsby--where in the world would you find four top defenseman like that today?"

"Not on the Leafs," I interject. (laughter)

"There you go, giving me another shot," says King.

"I'm sorry, King, I couldn't resist."

"That's all right, Brian. Now about Ted Lindsay. To me, Lindsay was one of the league's greatest. He played like I wish I could have played. He had a neat little trick. Every once in awhile, when things got dull, he'd give you a little shot in the jewel box. (laughter) I don't know if you folks know where the jewel box is...but Lindsay did. And Bob Goldham knew, because he would give you a shot there, too.

"But listen, I'm here tonight with my friend Walter Bianchi and Walter's pals from the Mafia. Yes, there are two big guys from the Mafia with us tonight and Brian, you're going to have a hell of a time getting out of here tonight after some of the things you've said. So be careful when you get out in the parking lot."

I thought King might mention the time his friend Walter won the sweep six‑‑and $250,000‑‑at Greenwood one afternoon a few months earlier. But he didn't. King concluded with some kind words about the dinner committee and the town of Georgetown. Then he sat down to wild applause. It was the last time we shared a microphone.

Clancy's routine in front of a microphone was never scripted. He was a natural humorist. But I did hear him tell a story one night that wasn't original and certainly not true. But the way he told it, it sounded that way.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began. "I'm not going to talk about hockey tonight. I'm going to tell you all about sex.

"Many years ago my father bought me a dog, a big German Shepherd, and instead of calling him Rover or Rex I called him Sex.

"My dog ran away one night and I went looking for him. But a cop spotted me and said, "Hey, what are you doing in this alley at four a.m.?"

I said, "Officer, I'm out looking for Sex." That's all I said. My case comes up Thursday.

I tried to get a licence for my dog so I went to city hall and told the clerk I’d like a licence for Sex. He said, "Gee, I'd like one too."

I said, "But this is a dog I'm talking about--a real dog." He said, "I don't care what she looks like."

When I said, "You don't understand. I've had Sex since I was two years old." He said, "Wow! You must have been a very strong baby."

When my wife and I decided to separate, we went to court to fight for the custody of the dog. I told the judge I had had Sex before I was married and the judge said, "Me, too."

When I told him Sex left me after I married, he said, "Yeah, me too."

Then I told him I once had Sex on TV. He called me a show‑off and said that if that was true I should have sold tickets.

I also told him we had taken the dog on our honeymoon and when we checked into the motel that I wanted a room for my wife and me and a special room for Sex. The clerk said that every room in the motel was for Sex.

Then I said, "You don't understand. Sex keeps me awake at night."

The clerk said, "Yeah, me too."

And the judge said, "Yeah, me too."

So I threw up my hands and gave my wife Sex--right there in the courtroom.